These 4 Things Happen When Your Business Goes Paperless  

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / April 9, 2024
data collection form

For decades, businesses of all types have managed essential, day-to-day functions in the exact same way: via endless reams of paper.

For many years, paper was simply “how things were done,” from contracts to invoices and everything in between. Unfortunately, this is also far from a good thing. According to one recent study, organizations in the United States waste about $8 billion annually on managing paper documents.

The problem is that paper documents can be lost or misplaced. They can be duplicated without realizing it. Soon, employees spend so much time looking for documents that they can’t devote as much attention to acting on the insight contained within.

Thankfully, the end of this era may finally be upon us, thanks to the digital revolution many industries are going through. Another study indicates that the digital transformation market is worth about $880 billion, expected to climb to $3.4 trillion by 2026.

This is because the shift towards digital workflows isn’t just about making paper a relic of the past. It’s also good for the environment, offering dramatic efficiency gains and cost savings for many businesses.

1. Less Time Spent Waiting on Signatures

By far, one of the biggest motivators for most businesses to transition to a paperless environment is the rise of e-signatures. Rather than drawing up a document like a contract, sending it to a client for signing, waiting to get it back in the mail, and filing it, everything is handled via one straightforward data collection form.

E-signatures are both secure and legally binding – making them perfect for industries like real estate or finance, where signatures are required more or less constantly. This dramatically streamlines the approval process and helps save valuable time. You don’t have to worry about misplacing the physical hard copy of an original signed document. The digital copy of that document is stored safely in a way that still allows it to be accessible in seconds.

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2. A Newfound Need for a “Single Source of Truth”

When you go paperless, your digital files will still need to be organized, maintained, and accessible by your team. Many companies unintentionally develop silos by creating a disorganized web of files and documents that simply aren’t accessible to everyone. Consider a document management system, or DMS for short, to organize your organization’s digital footprint. This cloud-based solution lets businesses store, organize, and access all their digital documents anywhere, anytime, and on virtually any device.

Think of it like a hard drive for all your files securely accessible online. You don’t have to mail documents from point A to B if your business has multiple locations. The DMS acts as a “single source of truth” for your business, breaking down data silos and allowing critical information to move freely across your enterprise.

A DMS also eliminates the need for assets like physical filing cabinets. It can help improve search functionality and ensure your documents are more secure than ever. Only the people who need access to a particular document to do their jobs will have it, representing a configuration far more secure than any locked filing cabinet.

3. Reduced Environmental Impact

So, on a day-to-day basis, your business becomes more efficient because the benefits of going paperless extend far beyond simply streamlining workflows. That’s just the most immediate advantage—a process that used to require six steps now requires two.

Organizations also dramatically reduce their environmental impact by eliminating paper waste. A significant amount of a business‘ footprint is usually dedicated to the space required to store those documents. Some large companies, in particular, have rooms that are devoted to little more than filing cabinets. Once everything is fully digital, moving to a smaller office may be possible.

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You also don’t have to worry about the energy required to produce and transport those documents. One employee doesn’t have to spend time putting together a paper file only to ship it to another via USPS or another mail service. Everything exists in a centralized database that all employees can access.

Digital documents are also easier to track and audit, too. At any given moment, you can see exactly who is accessing them and, more importantly, why. This helps reduce the risk of loss or misplacement, too.

4. Process Training Becomes a Priority

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that transitioning your organization to a paperless office will not happen overnight. This is one of those situations where the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” very much applies.

It’s up to you to invest in the right technology in the first place—the one that leverages a paperless system to support and empower the way your people like to work. You shouldn’t force your employees to change how things are done to compensate for the technology’s limitations. To do so would undo many of the benefits you’re getting from such a transition.

You must invest in training, ongoing education, and additional employee resources. For example, how will your onboarding process work for a new hire? Who will ensure they have proper access? With a single source of truth, it is very easy for someone to change something that affects many others. Security roles should be clearly defined to ensure people can access the right information. Having processes like these clearly defined for your team is paramount to a successful paperless transition.

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From that perspective, going paperless does require some effort in the short term. However, the long-term benefits—namely increased efficiency, cost savings, and environmental responsibility—make this an investment that will more than pay for itself over time.

Digital Transformation Brings Significant Value

When your business goes paperless, it does more than reduce its carbon footprint or make your employees’ days more efficient. That’s why it’s no surprise that digital transformation is a top priority for an estimated 74% of organizations.

The people who need access to critical information to do their jobs have it—no matter what. They don’t have to spend an average of 1.8 hours every day trying to find what they need. They can instead act on it right away, making communication and collaboration far easier.

Digital trends move quickly and don’t wait for anyone. For this reason, businesses need every advantage they can get. Digital transformation isn’t just about efficiency; it’s about empowering your people to do their best work. It’s a win-win for everyone.

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.

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